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Fast-growing sect wins credibility in Britain

The Times, 10 January 1997


SCIENTOLOGY, which was brought to Britain in 1954, is gaining up to 4,000 recruits a year, and now has more than 100,000 members in this country.

The religion has been gaining credibility and acquired significant new recognition when, under new Home Office guidelines published at the end of last year, Scientology leaders were granted the right to enter the country as recognised religious ministers. Although the sect has so far failed to attract celebrity support as it has done in the United States, it has a small church in central London similar to that frequented by the Hollywood stars in Los Angeles. The London church, one of three established in the capital and 11 nationwide, was set up to serve British celebrities.

Scientology began in 1950 with the publication of Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, by L. Ron Hubbard, who believed a person is neither a body nor a mind, but a spiritual being. The sect claims to be a religion in the most traditional sense, dealing with the person as spirit rather than the product of material circumstances.

The church has in the past been defined as a cult by the Home Office, and in 1968 was deemed "socially harmful". Members were barred from entering Britain to study or minister.

The group has also applied for charitable status, and a decision is pending.

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